Golf course could revitalize town

Opening set for August 2014

— Gamble Sands Golf Club architect David McLay Kidd believes his latest project — located south of state Highway 17 on the Colville Indian Reservation and set to open in August 2014 — will have the ability to transform the town of Brewster and its surrounding areas into tourist destinations.

“I have absolutely no doubt about it,” Kidd said.

He said “it’s no exaggeration” that within five years, people throughout the country will associate Brewster with world-class golf — much the same way they do with Bandon, Ore., where Kidd built possibly his most famous golf course.

When Kidd began building Bandon Dunes, the surrounding city was a logging and fishing town that was struggling with industries that were rapidly disappearing.

Kidd said he showed up wearing a golf hat and “they thought I was an alien from Mars.”

Bandon Dunes was completed in 1999 and within a couple years, it had “completely transformed” the identity of the town, Kidd said.

Now, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is a complex of five golf courses and considered one of the top tourist destinations for golfers in the world.

“No other sport attracts the wealthy and influential like golf,” Kidd said.

Gamble Sands will be owned by the Gebbers family of Gebbers Farms, but managed by Phoenix-based OB Sports.

Despite the Gebbers family’s recent foray into the golf world, project manager Tory Wulf said agriculture remains the center of attention for Gebbers Farms, one of the world’s foremost growers of apples.

“Down here, we’re not fooling anyone,” Wulf said. “We’re in the agriculture business. Our focus is the apple business.”

Wulf said the plot of land where the golf course is located was perfect: it was an ideal layout for golf and a bad area for agriculture.

The golf course “probably wouldn’t be there if (that location) was plantable,” Wulf said. “It would probably already be orchards.”

The process to bring golf to Brewster hasn’t been quick or easy. Wulf said the first plans were being put together about 12 years ago.

Kidd first became involved with the project in 2008, “while the world did a painful reset” because of the economy, he said. The Gebbers family “wisely put the idea on hold,” for the time being he said.

By 2011, the economy showed signs of returning to health and Kidd began construction of Gamble Sands. The course was completed last summer.

Now, its architect, planners, managers, employees and golf enthusiasts are in a holding pattern until spring weather arrives.

Kidd and Wulf agree the golf experience will be second to none.

The sand base upon which the course is set provides the perfect canvas for Kidd’s work, he said.

“It’s how golf was invented, over the sand dunes,” he said.

The layout can play as long as 7,305 yards from the tips or as short as 4,920 yards.

There are no trees or houses and 12 holes feature views of the Columbia River.

Wulf said the goal was to make a course that was both fun and playable.

“Playable and fun is a fine line,” he said. “If it’s too challenging, you feel like you’ve been beaten up.”

The open space will be forgiving of bad shots and many people will be able to play a round without losing a single ball, Wulf said.

Walking will be encouraged, but carts will be available.

Greens fees have not been set yet, but there will be a discounted rate for local residents.

The name Gamble Sands pays homage to the Gebbers family’s lineage.

Dan Gamble homesteaded in the area in 1885. His daughter, Martha Gamble married John Gebbers. Their son, Dan, eventually started Gebbers Farms.

The logo for Gamble Sands proved to be “harder than building a golf course,” Wulf said. In the end, the logo was designed using a signature of Martha Gamble’s from a check register, along with a rabbit.

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